Harriette Cole: I’m evaluating my friendships, and she may miss the cut

DEAR HARRIETTE: I noticed something peculiar about one of my old friends; she invites me to major celebrations such as milestone birthdays, bridal showers, weddings and baby showers, but never for any small get-togethers like a girls’ night out or dinner party.

This has been bothering me lately. It’s the time of year when I evaluate my friendships, their significance in my life and whether I want to keep them. Going into the new year, I’m unsure what kind of friendship this is.

I appreciate the invitation for special occasions, but I wonder why she doesn’t include me in anything casual and low-key. Do I just accept that this is the type of relationship we have, or should I bring it up with her and try to get to the root of the issue?

Superficial Friendship

DEAR SUPERFICIAL FRIENDSHIP: I want to start by asking what you invite your friend to attend.

It sounds like this woman values you in that she includes you in her milestone events. Those are the times that matter most in her life. It seems to me that she has proven that she remembers you and thinks about you. Otherwise, you would receive intermittent invitations at best.

If you want to be included in more intimate gatherings with her, start by inviting her to an intimate gathering of your creation. If she attends, you can tell her that you love coming to her big celebrations and this year you would like to spend more time with her. Don’t ask her to invite you to anything. Keep inviting her, and perhaps she will return the favor.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I’m struggling to hold on to a friendship with someone whose mental illness has taken over her entire personality. I hardly recognize her anymore.

I see small glimmers of the person she used to be now and then, but it’s getting rarer each day. I don’t know how to bring her back or support her in a way that would be useful.

She claims to be on medication, but her family members have told me that she is not. She’s showing no real sign of improvement, and I’m devastated.

It’s like I am grieving the loss of someone who is still alive. How do I remain friends with someone who is essentially a stranger now? How do I support her in her battle with a mental illness that I don’t fully understand?

Losing My Friend

DEAR LOSING MY FRIEND: As I have researched this, the best advice I have gathered suggests that you continue to do your best to show your love to your friend as you also accept that she may never be the same.

Stay in touch with her at a pace that you can manage. Continue to reach out to her family and talk to them about how things are going. You will likely need and appreciate each other’s support.

Know that you do not have the expertise to provide mental health care for your friend. You have the capacity to love without judgment. You can call, send messages via text, send physical cards and gifts and remain present, but you must also take care of yourself.

Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to [email protected] or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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